Three Questions for Tom Luna
Tom Luna is the Republican state party chair. Few jobs are as difficult as state party chair. Parties have factions. Many political leaders are self-important and quick to perceive slights. The state party chair must try to be neutral among the factions, leaders, and candidates. Part of the state party’s job is to ensure that everyone gets a platform—and then to back the winners.
Factions and personalities are prone to feel that the party chair is taking someone else’s side. When one speaker at a state party convention goes first, other speakers think the deck is stacked against them. When a party chair hosts a fundraiser for one candidate, other candidates think, perhaps rightly, that chair is helping one candidate at the expense of others.
Cheap shot against party chairs are a dime a dozen.
Not all questions are cheap shots, however. Tom Luna should respond to some legitimate questions as Idaho Republicans consider the next state chair, especially as there may be some opposition to his candidacy among Republicans.
Money and Staff. Idaho’s Republican Party raised just over $600,000 between January 2020 and the end of the May primaries (according to the Secretary of State’s Office). Idaho’s Democratic Party raised way more money. As a result, the staff at Idaho’s Republican party consists of two college students or recent graduates, while the Democratic Party has an army of campaign consultants.
Questions: Why is the dominant Republican Party out-fundraised and out-staffed by the Democratic Party? What would you do with more staff? What kinds of technological innovations would you like to introduce with more resources? Are you worried that you are playing yesterday’s politics while the Democratic Party is getting ready for tomorrow’s election methods?
Cross-Over Voting. Given the dominance of the Republican Party, many Democrats over the years have registered as Republicans to vote in the Republican primary. Only about 30,000 Democrats voted statewide in the Democratic Primary in May. 64,000 had voted in the Democrat Primary in 2018. And there are a lot more people in Idaho. Democrats either stayed home or registered as Republicans. The cumulative effect of Democrats registering as Republicans in the past four elections probably exceeds 25,000 votes statewide. Cross-over registering almost certainly contributed to Phil McGrane in his narrow victory for Secretary of State.
Questions: Do you agree that Democrats are registering as Republicans? Do you think that Democrats registering as Republicans and determining Republican nominees is a problem for the Republican Party? If not, why not? If so, what do you think the Republican Party should do about Democrats registering as Republicans?
The Lincoln Day Schedule. Idaho has many Lincoln Day dinners. What a wonderful tradition! State candidates and elected officials meet with local activists and Republicans for a dinner celebrating the party’s accomplishments and planning for more. Tom Luna’s approach to Lincoln Day Dinners has been local control, allowing each county to decide when its Lincoln Day will be. The result is an unbelievable schedule for Republican candidates in statewide elections. There were thirty Lincoln Day Dinners in 2022. The first Lincoln Day Dinner was in Lincoln County on January 14. The last was April 30 in Jerome. Sometimes the dinners overlapped (like on March 26 when there was a Lincoln Day Dinner at 6 pm in Moscow and in Crouch). Sometimes the counties that had Lincoln Day Dinners on back to back days were on opposite sides of the state.
The current schedule helps well-funded campaigns and harms campaigns that are barely scraping by. The local control of the Lincoln Day schedule can make for the need to fly from the east to the north on private jets, for instance.
Question: Are you willing to exert state party control over the Lincoln Day schedule in election years?